Two interesting articles caught my eye recently. First, on Get Rich Slowly, J.D. Roth asks when it is okay to judge someone else for their financial behaviors. J.D. describes his encounters with two friends — one friend more frugal than he is, who judges J.D.’s spending choices, and the other friend struggling financially, trying to improve, but not making the choices J.D. would like to see.
The second article is on the blog My Journey to Millions. The author, Evan, expresses how people who refuse to change drive him nuts. His buddy is admittedly miserable but hasn’t made strides lately to improve his condition, and this is touching one of Evan’s nerves.
Both articles made me consider a person’s obligation to help improve someone else’s life by offering advice. First of all, I make an effort not to judge other people, and if I judge their decisions, I generally keep my opinions to myself. If a friend asks, I will gladly share my thoughts to an extent, but I will do so with caveats and disclaimers, just short of asking him to sign a release form.
I wrote about this earlier this year, offering suggestions for handling requests for financial advice.
When I see a friend making financial choices that could significantly hurt him or his family, I might offer some suggestions in a non-judgmental way, but I would only share at an appropriate time if I see that the friend might be open to some discussion. It is best to approach the subject as a concerned friend, not as a “financial expert.”
I don’t expect people to change. Major behavioral change requires a shift in approach or philosophy, and that’s not something that everyone is prepared to do immediately. Some people just like to express their frustration without looking for a solution, and I am fine listening for a while without outlining a path for them to follow. Even after hearing the same complaints for years, I won’t let myself be significantly affected by their decisions. It’s often not my business.
Adults are free to make their own decisions. I don’t control anyone’s choices but my own, so I try not to get upset if someone doesn’t follow my suggestions or doesn’t work to improve their condition even after expressing their dissatisfaction. While I would be thrilled to see my friends as happy and successful as they want to be, I would not want to be so far involved that their disappointment becomes my disappointment.
I can control the choices I make, so that is where I focus. Aside from the decisions I make that can improve the world in some small way, I try to accept the things in the world I can’t change.
Published or updated June 7, 2010.